Let’s Take Care of Ourselves This Season
Tips for managing stress amid winter doldrums and COVID-19 threat.
With cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continuing to rise and the excitement of the holidays behind us, many may continue to feel stress and sometimes even sadness.
Holidays are typically overwhelming, but this year many were at their breaking points with family plans and traditions potentially changing, kids at home, and work stress. That anxiety may have eased somewhat, but the winter can be a difficult time for many.
Here are 4 ways to manage stress and have a healthy, happy winter season.
- Be optimistic and practice self-care. Many of us are still reeling from the holidays. Although it may be disappointing that some traditional holiday plans shifted, try to remain hopeful. The holidays typically bring anxiety and stress because of the countless obligations, event hosting, and sitting in traffic while traveling. Take advantage of the quiet winter season to decompress and do some self-care. Incorporate activities that bring peace into the daily or weekly routine and do not feel guilty about relaxing. Self-care is necessary for us to remain stable and strong, and can prevent or reduce anxiety and stress.
- Keep active. Go outside. Even though many of us want to stay in during the winter and just sit by the fire and drink hot cocoa, it is critical to keep active. Exercise releases endorphins that boost our moods and help keep us happy and satisfied. Take advantage of sunny days and get outside for sun exposure. Taking vitamin D also helps. Try to be active at home, too, by doing an online workout or using any exercise equipment in the house. Now is the time.
- Mentally prepare. Mentally preparing for what is to come by managing one’s expectations for the winter season can be beneficial. Set priorities and plan how to accomplish those in the best and safest way possible. Whether that means hosting events virtually or starting something new, it is important to do things that we feel are meaningful. It is natural to become frustrated by circumstances beyond our control, but it helps to focus on what can be controlled. Meditation and mindfulness can help us remain grounded during times of unpredictability. Mindset is the key to being able to manage. Remember to stop activities, walk away, and take deep breaths if necessary. Keeping a journal about stressors can help keep the small stuff in perspective. 2020 was an extremely difficult year, so let’s be patient with ourselves and our loved ones as 2021 begins.
- Plan in advance. During these months with less daylight, many of us lack energy and motivation. Planning fun activities and things to look forward to during the colder and darker months is important to help overcome winter blues. Activities could include baking or cooking (it is a great time to try a new recipe); crafting or painting; a game or movie night; an indoor dance party; or snow activities, such as building a snowman, skiing, or sledding. These have been difficult and stressful times, and feeling a bit off balance is understandable. But taking care ourselves is essential. Remember: Spring is just around the corner.
SUZANNE SOLIMAN, PHARMD, BCMAS, is the chief academic officer at the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs and the founder of Pharmacist Moms Group, the largest group of female pharmacists in the United States, with more than 35,000 members.